3.06.2005

This could become crucial

California Superior Court has ruled that bloggers aren't entitled to Freedom of the Press.

Once again, some fucker in a black robe rules based on what he wants the Constitution to mean rather than what it actually means.

The fact of the matter is, the actual, physical printing press is part of an old model of doing business. This is something that Douglas Adams had worked out ten years ago:

Over the last few years, I've regularly been cornered by nervous publishers or broadcasters or journalists or filmmakers and asked how I think computers will affect their various industries. For a long time, most of them were desparately hoping for an answer that translated roughly into "not very much." But its a hard question to answer because its based on a faulty model. It's like trying to explain to the Amazon River, the Mississippi. the Congo, and the Nile how the coming of the Atlantic Ocean will affect them. The first thing to understand is that river rules will no longer apply.

God do I wish I'd written that

Let's take a look at the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Not the book, published on Earth, mind you, but that wholly remarkable book published out of Ursa Minor Beta. About the size of a TI-83 graphics calculator, with a screen a shade bigger, it was less a book and more a means of accessing a great wealth of data on the subjects of Life, the Universe, and Everything that was beamed to it via Sub-Etha waves

Science Fiction, right?

Perhaps not.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a shiny, sexy device. About the size of the hardcover edition of Stephen Hawking's Universe in a Nutshell, which is to say of slightly lesser dimensions that a sheet of letter-sized paper, and about an inch thick. it opened like a book to reveal two LCD screens, one on either side.

The applications of such a device are obvious. However, what was missing at the time was a means of delivering the data. Today, we have WiFi.

So we have the display device, and the delivery system. All that remains is the implementation, and that is fast approaching. Seatle is in the process of being completely WiFi-ed, and other cities will follow. Wifi is the thing that will render actual, physical newspapers, books, and magazines to be permanently obselete.

Imagine you're having luch with a freind at a restaurant, and he mentions a book he's reading in casual conversation. You get the idea that this is the sort of book that you might like to read, so where previously you would have had to write down the name of the book, and then at some point make your way to a library or bookstore, in the process forget all about this book and wind up buying some fucking "101 ways to " self-help book. With the implementation of this technology, all you'd need to do is pull out your E-Book reader and ask your freind to repeat the title of the book. You're charged a nominal fee, signifigantly less than that of an actual paperback or hardcover becuase the publisher no longer needs to pay the fabulous price of printing and distribution.

So now you're reading this book. Depending on how well the writer or publisher is making use of the technology, you may be able to say, tap your finger on a word you don't understand, and have the definition pop up, not just the dictionary definition, but what the word means in context. Also, if it makes reference to a book that you think you might like, all you need to do is go to the bibliography, and follow a link to it. It will do to books what DVD technology did to film.

in terms of online news and magazines, the improvements are dramatic. You now have access to news the very moment it's submitted. Perhaps you even programmed your reader to alert you to new developments in a news story, or breaking news. Maybe you find yourself on the scene. You can use this same device to blog what you see. If you're like me, you do so in the style of Gonzo, and thus you have an entirely unique article covering the matter published online. Perhaps you were the first to submit about it.

In any case, such a method would almost completely remove the need for the printing press, and, once again in the words of Adams, remove the need to pay, "for all the trees that need to be pulped, the vans that have to be feuled, and the marketing people whose job it is to tell you how brilliant they are"

And, to come full circle back to my original point, blur the line between blogging and journalism to the point at which defining either as being separate from the other simply won't be worth the bother.

However, should this judge have his way, the principal difference between a blogger and a journalist in the eyes of the court would be that one of the two is infinitely more likely to be in the employ of a gynormous media conglamorate.

and you know, I don't think that AOL Time Warner would shed a single tear if that were to happen

13 comments:

  1. Interesting. I think we are at the very beginning of this whole issue. I don't know that I think bloggers should be treated as journalists to the extent that a blogger is more subjective, offering opinions and commentary, while a journalist is supposed (emphasize supposed) to be objective. But that line is so blurred now when I read the paper and listen to the news, what is fact and what is opinion. Sometimes one is offered up as the other.

    I like your description of how soon we will have no need of paper and there will be whole generations of people born after us who will never have seen a newspaper or a book but I have to say I'd miss that. Plus I'm not sure how much immediacy I really want.

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  2. Points well taken. The problem is, it's a blurry line. I think that blogging in general has a lot in common with Gonzo Journalism, the style crafted by the late, great, Hunter S. Thompson. The blogger is, for the most part, placing himself or herself inside the event.

    That isn't to say that I consider myself a journalist. Occasionally, I journalize, but it's hardly regular. Nor am I saying that bloggers should automatically be considered journalists, especially seeing as a lot of blogs are more or less online diaries.

    That being said, journalists aren't the only ones who enjoy freedom of the press. Editorial columnists, whose columns are often similar to blogs, are also given such protection. I would submit that even if we're not considering bloggers journalists, they should still be granted freedom of the press. Also, while not all bloggers are journalists, there are some who most certainly are, so excluding all bloggers from Freedom of the Press is still unconstitutional.

    I'm not saying that print media will dissapear, I'm just saying that they'll become unnecessary. There probably would still be the odd free newspaper or literary magazine. And I'm sure there would still be books on print... its just that there would be less of them. I'd miss them too, and so would many others, so I'm sure they'd stick around for a while. The point is, we would benefeit a lot from not needing to cut down so many trees.

    Also, immediacy would be entirely left up to your own discretion. you could choose to have something similar to a newspaper delivered to your reader, and you could choose which sources have their correspondence sent to you.

    Anyways, what I described is what could be, and what I think should be. It could take a while for everyone to get their act together, as old ways die hard; something evidenced by that judge's ruling.

    In any case, it looks like we're in for a bumpy ride

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  3. Anonymous10:54 AM

    You have the right to freedom of speech. Blogging fits into that. Blogging is not a publication, despite what the button says under the box for entries. I think if someone wants to be a journalist, they could start blogging, and they could find a job working for a news source that isn't overtly controlled by a conglomerate. There are so many news sources that provide an alternative to the mega media companies. The fun part of blogging is there's no news editor going through your entry to make sure everything is fine, grammatically or otherwise. If you say something that is false, or slander, you should be held accountable. That's why news sources has editors, to reduce that happening. Why should freedom of press be put upon bloggers if there's a good chance they're going to be biased and possibly wrong along w/ the legit sources?

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  4. I never said that all bloggers were journalists. But some clearly are, and the ones involved in this case most certainly are. And those bloggers ahould be given the same protections. However, the judge in question ruled that such freedoms only applied to traditional media, which technically means that at this point, there's no protection even for online-exclusive journalists that work for FOX, CNN, etc. At least not in California. However, we all know that if anyone ruled against them there, there'd be a shitstorm and a half.

    And as I said in the above post, not all those who are protected by freedom of the press are journalists. You'll most certainly find bias in editorials, but they are given the same protections

    In any case, there is certainly legal precedent to the effect that bloggers share the liabilities of journalists. One need look no further than HardOCP, which got sued for libel by Infinium Labs over their coverage of the Phantom game console.

    Blogging's lack of editors is irrellevent. Neither the First Ammendment nor any of the laws written as a means of enforcing it make any such stipulation. In fact, many of the pamphlets printed during the Revolutionary war, the very things that Freedom of the Press was established to protect, were done editorless.

    The fact of the matter is, if you libel in a blog, and you're popular enough that people would notice it, you will get sued. Such is the age we live in. If you're going to share the liabilities of a journalist, why not the protections?

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  5. and in response to your last question, there's always the possibility that someone will be biased or wrong, even in professional, acknowledged journalism. That is one thing that the New York Times has taught us.

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  6. Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive Project have a mobile library that prints books on demand from a server.

    Also, here is an article about how copyright affects the digital delivery of books.

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  7. Thanks. Iteresting article. There are certainly plenty of obstacles, but I hope we'll find a way to deal

    I am of course using the grand "We." I don't expect the answer to come from you, me, or Saije, but who knows?

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  8. Well, all we can do is just keep on blogging! :)

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